Julian Fellowes Q&A: ‘Downton Abbey’ creator
"From about series four, we knew where we wanted to end up with the principle arcs, but lesser stories keep coming in and decorating it," admits "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes during our recent webcam interview. Indeed, the upcoming sixth season will be the last for this award-winning drama series, of which he has written every episode.
As he explains, "It's the basic reality of anything you do on television is there is always someone who's going to be incredibly unsatisfied. I don't think you should let that hold you back too much. The truth is, in the end you can only do your best. You can only make the show that you want to see." And, as executive producer, he knows it is the right time to stop: "Certainly, we didn't want to go on and on and on and on because we wanted to leave while people were still sorry to see us go. And on that basic principle, (series) six seemed a pretty good number."
The series revolves around the the wealthy Crawley family and their servants living in Yorkshire in the early 20th century. It covers the period leading up to and following World War I with sweeping plots that include major and minor events of those years. The main focus, however, is on the personal lives of those both upstairs and downstairs.
Over its first four seasons, this "Masterpiece" program has done very well at the Emmys, with 11 wins to date, including wins in 2011 for Best Movie/Miniseries, Best Movie/Mini Writing (Fellowes), Best Movie/Mini Directing (Brian Percival) and Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress (Maggie Smith). When the show shifted to Drama for its second season, Smith won the Supporting Actress award and has contended every season since. Other acting nominees have included Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Paul Giamatti, and Elizabeth McGovern.
Fellowes was already a major awards winner before embarking on "Downton Abbey" with Gareth Neame of Carnival Films. He won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the similarly-themed "Gosford Park" (2001). Even though he had claimed that same award from the Writers Guild a few weeks earlier, he still wasn't sure the Oscar would be his. As he reveals, "When I was nominated, my agent said to me, 'It's such a shame you're in the same category as 'Memento'.' After that, all of my friends kept saying, 'Oh, if only you weren't up against 'Memento'." He went to see the "absolutely fabulous" film by Christopher Nolan and had his loser's face ready to go for the camera.